'It's time to salute Dutee and celebrate'

Updated: May 21, 2019, 07:56 IST | Hemal Ashar

Applause rings out as India's international athlete Dutee Chand comes out in a blaze of controversy

'It's time to salute Dutee and celebrate'
Dutee Chand celebrates at the victory ceremony for the women's 200m athletics event during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta

Dutee Chand, 100m record holder and winner of two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games, has put a foot in the door of the Indian sporting locker room and prized it open. For the queer community, the Odisha athlete's and champion sprinter's recent coming out as gay is celebratory soup for the soul, or in this case, sole. The Dutee Chand drama is being played out in full public view as her family has opposed her relationship with a girl, but Dutee has dug in her fleet foot heels and insisted she is doing nothing wrong.

Higher stakes

While there is some grey area swirling around the girl-loves-girl case, with the athlete's family saying that Dutee's partner is a relative and gold digger, the bigger picture is that Indian sport's 'coming out' has taken off from the starting blocks. Mumbai filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan, who is gay, said, "It takes courage to come out, and when one is in the public eye, the stakes are higher. The famous, besides battling all those fears about ostracism and stereotyping, have to also confront a loss of status that at times accompanies coming out."

More power to Dutee

Rangayan said that the spotlight should remain on Dutee's sporting performances, and "her sexuality as an out lesbian should not be the only aspect that defines her. It will also be interesting to see if corporates support her when it comes to endorsements." In the end, though for Rangayan, "The applause must ring out for Dutee. It takes one individual to break the barrier, and I would compare this to Ashok Row Kavi. Mumbai's trailblazing gay activist came out so many years ago. Somebody starts a movement, and that ripple becomes a wave, which eventually swells into a tide. More power to Dutee for this."

It's time to salute her

Pradeep Divgikar, founder member of the parental LGBT support group called Sweekar, said, "Dutee has been brave. It is a time to salute and celebrate. She has a lesson for us, the so called elite and urban and urbane who consider themselves so liberal. Dutee showed us that sometimes it is the small town person who teaches you some lessons and paves the way for others." He further said, "I invite the family to get in touch with us. We are not professional counsellors but a support network. Each parent's journey to acceptance of their queer child is different and therein lies the strength of this group."

A still from Taiwan! Let's Get Married
A still from Taiwan! Let's Get Married

Here's a role model

Mumbai's Dr Dhruv Ambegaokar, who identifies as gay, said, "Reading about Dutee gives me hope. I hope I can find love. When a well-known person comes out or claims to be in a same-sex relationship, it gives the community someone to look up to. Role models are inspirational for the movement and for me personally too."

Koninika Roy, advocacy manager of Mumbai's LGBT non-profit Humsafar Trust, said, "Only a handful of lesbian women are out. So, what Dutee has done is revolutionary. She has upped the visibility for this demographic."

A bit of Taiwan at Queer Film Festival

The 10th Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival to be held at Liberty Carnival Cinemas and Metro INOX screen from June 12 to June 16 will collaborate with Taiwan this year. Apart from screening of two short films from Taiwan, there will be a talk by festival guest Jay Lin, founder of Taiwan-based film distribution company Gol Studios, and announcement of distribution tie-up with GagaOOLala, which is Asia's first LGBT-focused OTT media platform. 'Taiwan! Let's Get Married!' and 'Gentlemen Spa' are the two Taiwanese films that will be screened. The first one is a short documentary about Taiwan's quest to become Asia's first country to legalise same-sex marriage and the second one is a story about a chubby gay man working as a janitor at a gay spa who dreams of a romantic relationship with the attractive customers.

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